Olympic swimmer Eamon Sullivan has backed his Australian teammates Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk, saying he saw “nothing wrong” with them posing with guns in images posted on social networking sites.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said Saturday that D’Arcy and Monk will be sent home from the London Games as soon as their swimming events are completed as punishment for the firearm photo controversy.
But Sullivan said he did not have a problem with the photos, adding that in 2007 Swimming Australia took the swim team to a rifle range in Canberra as part of a bonding session.
“We went to a gun range and had a bit of fun, a bit of a bonding session,” he told Channel Nine on Sunday.
“Nothing wrong with it then, so I don’t see the difference now.”
D’Arcy and Monk, both 24, have apologised for posting pictures online of themselves with high-powered weapons in a US gun shop, saying it was just “a bit of fun”.
Sullivan agreed saying: “Shooting is an Olympic sport and shooters don’t get into trouble for posing in their speedos.”
The Australian Olympic Committee said the Canberra gun range visit was a Swimming Australia initiative.
“It had nothing to do with the AOC. It was 2007, they were not members of any Olympic Team at that time,” an AOC spokesman said in a statement to the media.
The young swimmers have been sanctioned by the AOC after its team executive ruled their conduct had brought themselves into disrepute.
D’Arcy is a chance in the 200m butterfly at the Olympics and Monk is in the 4x200m freestyle relay team but both have been dogged by controversy.
D’Arcy was kicked off the 2008 Olympic team after assaulting former swimmer Simon Cowley in a Sydney bar, leaving him with multiple facial injuries.
And Monk last year avoided charges after telling police he was the victim of a hit and run accident only to later confess he broke his elbow when he fell off his skateboard.
The pair spoke to the media in Brisbane on Monday after meeting with Swimming Australia officials to say they understood the AOC sanctions and promised not to use social media before and during the Games.
“I think at this stage it will just serve as a distraction and I think it’s really important in these last seven weeks to focus on your swimming,” D’Arcy said.
“Because at the end of the day I’ll be coming up against some of the greatest swimmers in the world, especially (American) Michael Phelps, and if you’re not on your game you don’t stand a chance against those guys.”
Swimming Australia acknowledged the 2007 Canberra gun range visit but said the matter involving D’Arcy and Monk was more the manner in which they posed in the photos, since removed from the sites, as well as past indiscretions.
“They showed poor judgement in posting what we saw as inappropriate photos, in which they appear to be skylarking with guns while in the US last week,” said chief executive Kevin Neil.
While what they did was not illegal, posting photos on social networks encourages public debate and this could be seen to have a negative impact on the image of the sport, he said.